The last three encounters between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Pharaohs of Egypt have been settled by the odd goal so there is mutual respect between the countries. But no one likes to start a tournament on a losing note.
While the Egyptians have had the benefit of the Arab Cup to tune-up for Cameroon 2021, the Eagles squad did not start real training until the new year and January 7 was the day interim manager Augustine Eguavoen actually had almost a full squad to train.
Of Nigeria’s three AFCON titles, Egypt have been group opponents in two; the 1980 and 1994 editions. In 1980, the Eagles won 1-0 and in the 1994 edition, they were held 0-0.
26/03/19 FRI Nigeria 1 – 0 Egypt
29/03/16 ACO Egypt 1 – 0 Nigeria
25/03/16 ACO Nigeria 1 – 1 Egypt
Three duels to watch
Zaidu Sanusi v Mohamed Salah
Sanusi is expected to start ahead of Ola Aina as the left-back because Jamilu Collins arrived very late and he will have his hands full with the pace and trickery of Egypt’s talisman, Mohamed Salah. While Sanusi is speedy, he often loses concentration in one-on-one duels, which means he could be caught napping with lofted balls. Salah is in good scoring form and is now more adept at creating goal chances from wide.
Chidera Ejuke v Mohamed Elneny
Ejuke has played the No.10 role for the Eagles in training matches and is expected to start against a technical Egyptian side anchored by Arsenal’s Elneny. While Ejuke is an excellent dribbler, his use of the ball must be better if he is to get the better of Elneny. The Egyptian defensive midfielder is a tenacious tackler and he will be up for this.
Taiwo Awoniyi v Ahmed Hegazy
This will be a very physical battle. Awoniyi has improved in leaps and bounds, with the physical stature to hold his own but Hegazy is an experienced campaigner, who will win his 65th cap against Nigeria. The former U-17 World Cup winner will hope to score a maiden goal for the Eagles to stamp his ascension to the No.9 role.
“The organization is excellent, and I thank Cameroon for that. We have no worries. We respect Egypt, but Nigeria is a great team, and we didn’t come here to lose. I’m not looking for personal glory, but the most important thing I’m looking for is an achievement for Nigeria.” – Augustine Eguavoen, Nigeria Manager
“We are ready and eagerly waiting for the start of the journey. Everyone is ready to give their best. We will face a team that has many great players, but we are ready and we will face them with full force.” – Carlos Queiroz, Egypt Manager
The match kicks off at 5 p.m.